Vowel Harmony and Diphthongs

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aliensdrinktea
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Vowel Harmony and Diphthongs

Post by aliensdrinktea »

I'm not well-versed on vowel harmony, but I'm trying to understand it. I think I have the gist of how it works, but I'm a bit confused about diphthongs. If a language has, say, rounding/backness harmony, could /ai/ coexist in a word with /u/, or /au/ with /i/? (Let's assume that /a/ is neutral.)

What if unstressed diphthongs have a tendency to merge into monophthongs? Is that permitted when the resulting monophthong would violate vowel harmony rules? Does vowel harmony have any influence on pronunciation if this is the case?

Some background info my conlang and specific questions pertaining to this (feel free to skip):
Spoiler:
The language I'm working on features rounding/backness harmony and has the vowels /i e u o a/ and diphthongs /ai ei au ou/. Unstressed diphthongs fuse into monophthongs; for example, unstressed /au/ becomes [o~ɔ]. It may be more accurate to analyze the underlying diphthongs as vowel-semivowel combinations (so /aj ej aw ow/), as the second "vowel" occupies the syllable coda. /a/ is neutral with regard to vowel harmony.

There's a word I want to coin, /kiʔau/ (or /kiʔaw/, if you prefer). The stress in this word would fall on the first syllable, resulting in [ˈkiʔo]. But combining a front unrounded vowel and back rounded vowel is a no-no, at least at the phonemic level. So my questions are these:

1. Would /kiʔaw/ be permitted in the first place, given the above restriction?
2. If so, would it be realized as [o], or as another allophone that's less fronted and/or unrounded?
Thanks in advance [:)]
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Re: Vowel Harmony and Diphthongs

Post by eldin raigmore »

I googled
how does vowel-harmony work with diphthongs and polyphthongs?
and got

In phonology, vowel harmony is an assimilatory process in which the vowels of a word have to ... Diphthongs were harmonized as well, although they were soon monophthongized because ... McGill Working Papers in Linguistics, 22(1), 1-14.
Missing: polyphthongs? ‎| Must include: polyphthongs?
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The Vowel Harmony Calculator - Swarthmore Collegewww.swarthmore.edu › SocSci › harmony › public_html
The harmony calculator on this site is a tool for quantifying vowel ... The script determines what percentage of words in the corpus are harmonic, ... The script works with plain text files produced on Macintosh, Windows and ... Also, the " reduce diphthongs" option can be used to reduce any string of two vowels to its first vowel.
Missing: polyphthongs? ‎| Must include: polyphthongs?

Manchu/Lesson 1 - Pronunciation - Wikibooks, open books for ...en.wikibooks.org › wiki › Lesson_1_-_Pronunciation
Vowel harmonyEdit. The Manchu language is subject to the rules of vowel harmony. This means that only certain vowels can appear together in the same word ...
Missing: polyphthongs? ‎| Must include: polyphthongs?

How does vowel harmony typically arise in a language ...linguistics.stackexchange.com › questions › how-does-...
Aug 12, 2013 — Probably the most common explanation of how vowel harmony starts is that it's a grammaticalization of the phonetic effect of coarticulation, ...
1 answer
Missing: diphthongs ‎polyphthongs?

sezer-wetzels-yakut.pdfwww.wjh.harvard.edu › ~pal › pdfs › pdfs › sezer-wetz...
PDF
vowels of proto-Turkic, however, developed into diphthongs in. Yakut. We would ... 'work'. 'sowing! 'milk'. 'girl'. 'water'. 'name' i: š. Gü:t gé: 8 süt üüt kiés uu aat kéz. Ouw. S1 a:t ... The peculiar fact about Yakut Vowel Harmony is that there exist.
Missing: polyphthongs? ‎| Must include: polyphthongs?

A Short Note on Finnish Diphthongs*www.linguistics.fi › julkaisut › 1.2.6.POCHTRAGER.pdf
PDF
but follows from the conditions on Finnish vowel harmony, which is palatal. The ... Since the frameworks the two of us work and think in are quite different, the ...
by MA Pöchtrager · ‎Cited by 2 · ‎Related articles
Missing: polyphthongs? ‎| Must include: polyphthongs?

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA Los Angeles Acoustic typology ...phonetics.linguistics.ucla.edu › research › RBecker_dissPDF
Data for peripheral mid vowels in 9S inventories without vowel harmony are in parentheses. ... component in a larger research enterprise, which was the focus of my work during most of my ... of monophthongs (no diphthongs), which are modal (no creaky, breathy or otherwise non-modal ... Livonian polyphthongs. Estonian ...
by R Becker-Kristal · ‎2010 · ‎Cited by 64 · ‎Related articles

Thuun - CWS Planetwiki.conworkshop.com › Thuun
Jul 9, 2018 — page is in the middle of an expansion or major revamping. This article or ... These vowels can combine to form up to almost 80 phonemic polyphthongs, including length distinctions. Overlong ... Thuun has a system of vowel harmony. A word ... Diphthongs are written with their components side by side, eg.

Vowel Harmony In Korean - S-Spaces-space.snu.ac.kr › bitstream
PDF
Vowel harmony(VH) in Present Korean(PK)l is very difficult to ana- lyze in a ... had been diphthongs are usually cited as the major causes of the disruption. ofVH. 2.1. ... his SufVH rule (6b) does not work with his Korean vowel classification.
by S Park · ‎1990 · ‎Cited by 5 · ‎Related articles
Missing: polyphthongs? ‎| Must include: polyphthongs?

SURVEY OF RESEARCH ON LIVONIAN PROSODY ... - Corecore.ac.uk › download › pdf
PDF
Estonian, Livonian has lost vowel harmony, although some traces have remained in ... vowel [ō] can alternate with the diphthong ou and the low rounded back- vowel [ǭ] ... sentences with the test words containing polyphthongs in the first syllable. ... work of the lexical tone in the first syllable, Kettunen was either unable or ...
by T Tuisk · ‎Cited by 4 · ‎Related articles
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Re: Vowel Harmony and Diphthongs

Post by Salmoneus »

aliensdrinktea wrote: 14 Oct 2020 22:57 I'm not well-versed on vowel harmony, but I'm trying to understand it. I think I have the gist of how it works, but I'm a bit confused about diphthongs. If a language has, say, rounding/backness harmony, could /ai/ coexist in a word with /u/, or /au/ with /i/? (Let's assume that /a/ is neutral.)
I'll caveat this with: I'm certainly not an expert on this topic, so take everything with a pinch of salt and I'm happy to be corrected. That said, I have read a few things about it and hopefully remember some of it, so I'll take a stab...

The first thing to say is that nothing is certain. Vowel harmony systems are very varied.

Second: I assume you're treating /i/ as front/unrounded. Counterintuitively, it's actually relatively common for /i/ to be treated as neutral - perhaps because it's so 'extreme' that it often resists umlaut effects? It may also be because lots of front/back harmony systems have actually started out as other sorts of harmony and have gradually shifted in a way that can lead to counterintuitive exceptions.


However, that said, assuming that in this language's harmony rules /a/ is neutral, /i/ is front, and /u/ is back...

- I believe diphthongs are often exempt from harmony rules, so in that case, yes, these things would be allowed, yes. Likewise, long vowels are often exempt.

- however, they're not exempt in all languages! One issue might be whether your language treats [ai] as underlyingly /aj/ (a unitary diphthong), or as /ai/ (phonemically a sequence of two vowels in hiatus, even if phonologically it collapses to a diphthong in pronunciation). The former is probably less likely to trigger harmony, and much less likely to be altered by it.

- it's also possible in some languages for vowel harmony to be 'blocked' by certain vowels - not only do they not change, but vowels before them (or after them, depending on which direction the harmony works) don't change either. Long vowels can block in some languages, and I wouldn't be surprised if diphthongs can do too.


[in general, as with so many language things: although people commonly talk about "vowel harmony" as though it were its own unique thing, totally different from other vowel changes like simple local umlaut, the reality is often a bit more blurry. There are pure, ideal vowel harmony systems... but there are also confusing, incomplete vowel harmony systems too.]

What if unstressed diphthongs have a tendency to merge into monophthongs? Is that permitted when the resulting monophthong would violate vowel harmony rules? Does vowel harmony have any influence on pronunciation if this is the case?
Anything is permitted!

I don't think it's likely that normal harmony would prevent monopthongisation per se, although it could do so indirectly in some cases (eg by turning an easily-reduced diphthong into one that resists monophthongisation more strongly).

Other than that, though, I think the key question is: how 'active' is the harmony? Harmony looks like a synchronic system - a set of rules the current language follows - but it's probably best thought of as the result of a sound change. Like all sound changes, it's active at a particular time - and for a particular length of time. So, you can have a perfectly regular vowel harmony language - and then introduce a bunch of loanwords and discover that the loanwords aren't altered to obey vowel harmony rules: in this case, it looks like there's a rule in the language, but it's not actually an ongoing sound change, so the new words aren't changed. On the other hand, another language, even if it doesn't look to have as perfect a vowel harmony system, may still have an active sound change that is gradually altering words, including loanwords, to obey vowel harmony rules.

So, in your case you have two soundchanges, or perhaps more accurately two sound change rules: one that reduces diphthongs; and one that produces harmony. But what order do they operate in?

If you have harmony first, and then reduction, then you end up with a seemingly irregular vowel harmony system - certain vowels just don't trigger (or aren't affected by) harmony, for no obvious synchronic reason (or are affected, but in a different way) , or you may even have vowels that trigger it in some words and not (or differently) in others (depending on where the vowel comes from). This isn't 'ideal' vowel harmony, it's messy, but as I say, that doesn't mean it doesn't happen in real languages!

But, depending on the rules of the reduction, you may still effectively have harmony working, because the diphthong may be altered first, and the altered diphthongs may lead to different vowels after reduction. Or not! If your harmony change is /au/ > /ay/, but then your reduction changes both /au/ and /ay/ to /a:/, then it looks like harmony doesn't affect /a:/, even though historically it did...

If you have the reduction first, on the other hand, and then the harmony, then the new monopthongs may be just as influenced by harmony as any other vowels (although if they're long, there's a chance they'll be immune anyway).

OR: you can have harmony, and then reduction, and then more harmony again (i.e. the harmony rule remains active the whole time, before and after the other change)....
There's a word I want to coin, /kiʔau/ (or /kiʔaw/, if you prefer). The stress in this word would fall on the first syllable, resulting in [ˈkiʔo]. But combining a front unrounded vowel and back rounded vowel is a no-no, at least at the phonemic level. So my questions are these:

1. Would /kiʔaw/ be permitted in the first place, given the above restriction?
Probably, yes. If /aw/ derives from an earlier /au/, that existed when there was already harmony, then it's possible that it would already have been altered, and hence the /aw/ would never have arisen. However, if the /au/ already reduced to /aw/ before harmony arose, or if it's from, say, /al/ or the like, then there's no reason it couldn't exist (although I think it's also possible that the language may alter it through harmony regardless of its origin! - but I also think that while that's possible, it's not necessary). Or even if it's from /au/, the vowel harmony rules may just be blocked by /a/ followed by a vowel anyway, or some similar rule...
2. If so, would it be realized as [o], or as another allophone that's less fronted and/or unrounded?
Whatever you want!

Basically, assuming you do have /ki7aw/ (sorry, can't be bothered to copypaste the glottal stop symbol...), and assuming that /aw/ does >/o/, then the speakers of the language will face the exact dilemma that you do: woah, this word sounds weird!

But what they do about it is up to them. I think there are four plausible options for them:

a) say "that's impossible! Harmony is all-important!", and continue to apply the harmony rule to the new vowel. They may say /e/ is the fronted version of /o/, therefore this word must logically be /ki7e/!

b) say "that's impossible! Harmony is all-important!", and continue to apply the harmony principle to the new vowel, but not be convinced that /o/ > /e/ should be an ongoing rule, and instead front it to a new front rounded vowel. You'd then have two different phonemes that produce /o/ in back contexts - one of which fronts to a front unrounded vowel, and one of which fronts to a front rounded vowel. Or, for a really fun version: maybe original harmony worked from left to right, but because it's perfect and exceptionless and there are no suffixes or prefixes (or they don't get involved in harmony), the speakers forget this, and apply the new harmony from right to left.... [this isn't exactly likely, but it wouldn't be freakishly bizarre]

c) say "oh, screw it" and give up on harmony. Most words would still look like they obey vowel harmony, but words with vowels descending from former diphthongs would just not obey it, and new loanwords and derivations wouldn't obey it either.

d) be indecisive, and try to find a middle way. In this scenario, they maintain harmony as a general rule, but accept that certain words are exceptions. So again you'd have two different sorts of /o/ - one which was involved in harmony, and one which wasn't.


In the long run, the language will either tend toward imposing exceptionless harmony, or else it will tend to gradually abandon harmony. But it's possible for it to be in an irregular intermediate condition for a long time!
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Re: Vowel Harmony and Diphthongs

Post by aliensdrinktea »

(This is a reply to eldin raigmore. Salmoneus, I see the reply you've posted in the meantime, and I will read it shortly.)
eldin raigmore wrote: 14 Oct 2020 23:22 In phonology, vowel harmony is an assimilatory process in which the vowels of a word have to ... Diphthongs were harmonized as well, although they were soon monophthongized because ... McGill Working Papers in Linguistics, 22(1), 1-14.
Alright, so in context, this is talking about Proto-Slavic, specifically this:
Syllabic synharmony was a process in the Proto-Slavic language ancestral to all modern Slavic languages. It refers to the tendency of frontness (palatality) to be generalised across an entire syllable. It was therefore a form of consonant–vowel harmony in which the property 'palatal' or 'non-palatal' applied to an entire syllable at once rather than to each sound individually.
I think it goes without saying that diphthongs and semivowels will harmonize when harmony applies to the entire syllable, consonants included. That isn't what I'm asking about. I'm asking about the type of harmony that crosses syllable boundaries and only affects vowels.
eldin raigmore wrote: 14 Oct 2020 23:22 The Vowel Harmony Calculator - Swarthmore College
This might be cool to play around with, if I had a corpus of text in my conlang. Not surprisingly for someone still working out the kinks in the phonology, I don't.
eldin raigmore wrote: 14 Oct 2020 23:22 Manchu/Lesson 1 - Pronunciation - Wikibooks, open books for ...en.wikibooks.org › wiki › Lesson_1_-_Pronunciation
Vowel harmonyEdit. The Manchu language is subject to the rules of vowel harmony. This means that only certain vowels can appear together in the same word ...
Thanks for this, though I admit I'm still confused. So <e> is a front vowel, <a o ū> are back vowels, and <u i> are neutral. The existence of <eo> as a diphthong would suggest that mixing front and back vowels in diphthongs is permitted, but then I see that o-e stems exist, despite front and back vowels being otherwise forbidden from co-occurring in a stem. So maybe there's something fishy about that particular pair of vowels. I notice <eo> is the only harmony-violating diphthong, and there's no mention of the interaction between diphthongs and harmony, and I'm not finding anything helpful browsing the vocabulary on the following pages, either.

Doing more research, I came across this:
The history of generative accounts of vowel harmony in Classical Manchu is discouraging. The early treatments (Vago, 1973; Odden, 1978; Finer, 1979) assumed the wrong type of vowel harmony (front vs. back rather than relative height harmony).
Which explains why <e> and <o> can co-occur but also calls into question the accuracy of the Wikibooks source.
eldin raigmore wrote: 14 Oct 2020 23:22 vowels of proto-Turkic, however, developed into diphthongs in. Yakut. We would ... 'work'. 'sowing! 'milk'. 'girl'. 'water'. 'name' i: š. Gü:t gé: 8 süt üüt kiés uu aat kéz. Ouw. S1 a:t ... The peculiar fact about Yakut Vowel Harmony is that there exist.
I just googled "yakut vowel harmony", which took me to a different article, but I found this:
Yakut has also 4 diphthongs: front unrounded [ie], front rounded [yœ], back unrounded [ɯa], and back rounded [uo].
So diphthongs presumably can never be in conflict with vowel harmony because both vowels in each diphthong share the same rounding and backness. Is this generally the case for language with vowel harmony, or is this feature particular to Yakut?
eldin raigmore wrote: 14 Oct 2020 23:22 A Short Note on Finnish Diphthongs
I've read this. The existence of diphthongs like /oi/ and /eu/ in Finnish made it seem clear that the secondary vowel of a diphthong is irrelevant to vowel harmony (at least in some languages), but then I read on Wikipedia that /i/ and /e/ are neutral in Finnish, which sent me back to square one.
eldin raigmore wrote: 14 Oct 2020 23:22 Vowel Harmony In Korean
Modern Korean no longer has strict vowel harmony, but I guess I should take that as a cue that I can do what I want with my conlang rather than dismissing Korean as an example because it lacks true vowel harmony. Although maybe not, since vowel harmony in Korean (to my understanding) is a case of "it's retained in some stems but no longer affects affixes", which isn't what I'm going for anyway.

Thanks, though. Not sure it helps answer my questions, but it's given me something to think about.
eldin raigmore wrote: 14 Oct 2020 23:22 Livonian has lost vowel harmony, although some traces have remained in ...
Same issue here as with Korean.

Do you have any resources that actually address my questions, or are you just going to copy and paste not-wholly-relevant Google search results under the assumption I haven't already looked for answers myself?
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Re: Vowel Harmony and Diphthongs

Post by eldin raigmore »

There are four different kinds of vowel harmony a language can have. (Well, four that are listed in the Wikipedia article.)
No language would reasonably have any two of them in my opinion; and as far as I know no natlang does in fact have any two of them.
* “height harmony”, where in any given word close (“high”) vowels don’t co-occur with open (“low”) vowels
* “backness harmony”, where in any given word front vowels don’t co-occur with back vowels
* “rounding harmony”, where in any given word rounded vowels don’t co-occur with unrounded vowels
* “width harmony”, where in any given word advanced-tongue-root (“wide”) vowels don’t co-occur with relaxed-tongue-root (“narrow”) vowels.

(BTW FYI in case it’s interesting: retracted tongue root occurs only with consonants and advanced tongue root occurs only with vowels. Each of them contrasts with relaxed tongue root; not with each other. Or so it appears to me.)

....

You can see how, especially, having both height harmony and backness harmony in the same language, would almost mean all the vowels in any one word would have to be the same.

....

Any diphthong inherently violates at least one kind of harmony; which kind depends on the diphthong.
ue and eu and io and oi all simultaneously violate height harmony and backness harmony and rounding harmony.
ie and ei violate height harmony but stay front and unrounded; uo and ou violate height harmony but stay back and rounded.
iu and ui violate backness harmony and rounding harmony but stay close; eo and oe violate backness harmony and rounding harmony but stay open-mid.

....

So what you read about harmony in one language may not necessarily transfer to some other language, unless you’re careful to re-interpret what is meant by “harmony” if that’s necessary, which at least half the time it will be.

....

I gather from a quick glance at some of the articles I found, some of them propose that in some languages, vowel harmony (of whichever type there is in the language they’re talking about) develops out of umlaut and out of simplifying diphthongs, in one order or the other?
I must admit that at this point you’ve read those articles more carefully than I have!

Umlaut happens when the vowels of adjacent syllables influence each other, whether anticipatorily (the first vowel starts to resemble the second) or perseveratively (the second vowel starts to resemble the first), in spite of the consonants between them.
Some kinds of umlaut might turn one of the vowels into a diphthong, if they were both pure monophthongs originally.

For instance, if the ancestral word were foti, anticipation might make it foiti.
Or, perseveration might make it fotoi. Either way one of the vowels might become a diphthong.

That might not be your favorite example, because o and i don’t harmonize in any way except both being relaxed-tongue-root.
Edit: And peripheral!
You might prefer
fotu —> foutu
Or
fotu —> fotou
or futo —> fuoto or futo —> futuo.

Or fite - fiete or fite - fitie or feti - feiti or feti - fetei

All of those would tend towards backness harmony and/or roundedness harmony.
....

Or fitu - fiutu or fitu - fitiu or futi - fuiti or futi - futui or feto-feoto or feto-feteo or fote-foete or fote - fotoe.
All of those might lead to height harmony.

....

There is a rarum in the Grammatical Rarity Cabinet of a natlang that has vowel harmony of the peripheral-vs-interior type!
In that language, it is reported, in every word, either every vowel is peripheral to the language’s vowel-system, or every vowel is interior to the language’s vowel-system.
To explain; peripheral vowel are front unrounded vowels and back rounded vowels and open vowels.
Central vowels (unless they are open), front rounded vowels (unless they are open), and back unrounded vowels (unless they are open), are interior vowels.

You may not have seen many interior vowels, since all of a e i o u are peripheral. a is open, e and i are front unrounded, and o and u are back rounded.

But a mid central vowel is an interior vowel, no matter its roundedness. For that matter so is a close central vowel.
And if your language has near-front near-close or near-back near-close or near-front near-open or near-back near-open vowels, they’re also interior vowels, no matter their roundedness.

But even Somali’s nine-vowel system has only two interior vowels; a mid-central one and a close central one.

......

To the best of my knowledge, most of the following ideas don’t happen in any natlang; and maybe none of them do. (Any that do must happen rarely!)

You might want to consider nasality harmony for your vowels, if they have phonemic nasality. Either all the vowels in the word are nasal, or none of them are.

You might want to consider length harmony, if they have phonemic length. Estonian might do something sorta like that, according to some linguisticians who haven’t yet convinced the rest.
You might decide either all the vowels in any word are long or all of them are short.
Or if you have three or more phonemic lengths, you might just say you never have extra-long vowels and extra-short vowels co-occurring in the same word.
If you also have three or more phonemic lengths in consonants, you could prohibit the co-occurrence of extra-long phonemes with extra-short phonemes in the same word, even if they weren’t both vowels or both consonants.

And you could really get the polyphthongs involved if you have phonemic triphthongs as well as phonemic diphthongs and monophthongs! Prohibit triphthongs and monophthongs in the same word! A monophthongs-free word could be composed of consonants and diphthongs and triphthongs; a triphthong-free word could be composed of consonants and diphthongs and monophthongs.

Or, be more modest, and just say either all the vowels in a word are monophthongs, or all are diphthongs.

.....

Are you committed to only doing in your conlang what happens in at least one natlang?

...

I hope that helps some.

I really think if you read all that stuff I found you probably know more than I do now; I’ve just glanced at it.
Now I want to read it for real; but I probably won’t start today. I’ll probably start tomorrow but then have to break for the weekend. So you’ll be the most expert person I know about for at least a week!
Last edited by eldin raigmore on 15 Oct 2020 21:18, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Vowel Harmony and Diphthongs

Post by Aevas »

aliensdrinktea wrote: 15 Oct 2020 15:55The existence of diphthongs like /oi/ and /eu/ in Finnish made it seem clear that the secondary vowel of a diphthong is irrelevant to vowel harmony (at least in some languages), but then I read on Wikipedia that /i/ and /e/ are neutral in Finnish, which sent me back to square one.
I haven't read the previous replies, so I'm just jumping in on this.

Finnish diphthongs do follow vowel harmony. The back diphthongs <au ou> /ɑu ou/ contrast with the front diphthongs <äy öy> /æy øy/; but you have both of <eu ey> /eu ey/, since /e/ is a neutral vowel and can be joined with either second element. Diphthongs with a final /i/ are unaffected since this too is a neutral vowel.
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Re: Vowel Harmony and Diphthongs

Post by eldin raigmore »

Having read Aevas’s reply, and re-read what you (aliensdrinktea) said about “neutral vowels”, I think I should say something about what I think I understand about neutral vowels.

If the feature of vowels getting harmonized has at least three values, then vowels with the middle value count as neutral in that language.

For instance if the language’s vowel-harmony is height-harmony and it has mid vowels as well as close ones and open ones, then the mid vowels will be “neutral” in that language. Height-harmony will prohibit the co-occurrence of close vowels with open vowels in the same word of that language. For every word, either its vowels are all close and/or mid; or else all of its vowels are open and/or mid. For instance such a language might not allow i nor u to co-occur with a in any word; but e and o could co-occur with any vowel.

Or if its vowel-harmony is backness harmony, a might be a neutral vowel, being as it is a central vowel. i and e can’t co-occur with u and o in any word, but a can co-occur with any vowel.

....

Also; about only one component of a diphthong counting for harmonizing.
Some diphthongs, called “falling diphthongs”, put most of the stress or energy or weight on the first part of the diphthong, and rather little on the second part.
Maybe for “falling” diphthongs only the first part has to harmonize?
Some diphthongs, called “rising” diphthongs, put most of the stress or energy or weight on the last part of the diphthong, and not much on the first part.
Maybe for “rising” diphthongs only the last part has to harmonize?

Those are guesses, in case that’s not clear!

Some diphthongs put just about equal stress and energy and weight on both parts. I wouldn’t know what to guess about them.
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Re: Vowel Harmony and Diphthongs

Post by Salmoneus »

eldin raigmore wrote: 15 Oct 2020 21:12 There are four different kinds of vowel harmony a language can have. (Well, four that are listed in the Wikipedia article.)
No language would reasonably have any two of them in my opinion; and as far as I know no natlang does in fact have any two of them.
This is very misleading. In reality, it's very common to have multiple harmony systems at one. Indeed, rounding harmony AIUI typically does appear with another form of harmony as well. Turkish and Turkic languages have rounding and backing harmony, Mongolic languages have rounding and RTR harmony, and some West African languages have ATR harmony with either backing or rounding, it's not agreed which.

[which encourages pointing out: although people like to label something 'backness harmony' or 'rounding harmony' or the like, in reality each language has its own system contrasting two (or more) sets of vowels; it's not always immediately clear what the underlying motivation for the set-definition in a given language really is.]
You can see how, especially, having both height harmony and backness harmony in the same language, would almost mean all the vowels in any one word would have to be the same.
Not really no - languages with lots of vowel harmony often just have more vowels. Also remember that harmony doesn't have to cover the whole word - it can be blocked - and it's common for some vowels not to be involved in harmony. Turkish, for example, effectively has underlying four vowels (ignoring loanwords, non-harmonising affixes and other exceptions), which is more than enough to get by on, along with both backing and rounding harmony, yielding eight surface vowels: two are neutral, one underlying vowel has two realisations (back/front), and the fourth underlying vowel has four realisations (back/front and rounded/unrounded).
....


To the best of my knowledge, most of the following ideas don’t happen in any natlang; and maybe none of them do. (Any that do must happen rarely!)

You might want to consider nasality harmony for your vowels, if they have phonemic nasality. Either all the vowels in the word are nasal, or none of them are.
This is actually pretty common. However, it's not pure vowel harmony, because it always involves modification of consonants as well.
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Re: Vowel Harmony and Diphthongs

Post by Salmoneus »

eldin raigmore wrote: 15 Oct 2020 21:35 Having read Aevas’s reply, and re-read what you (aliensdrinktea) said about “neutral vowels”, I think I should say something about what I think I understand about neutral vowels.

If the feature of vowels getting harmonized has at least three values, then vowels with the middle value count as neutral in that language.

For instance if the language’s vowel-harmony is height-harmony and it has mid vowels as well as close ones and open ones, then the mid vowels will be “neutral” in that language. Height-harmony will prohibit the co-occurrence of close vowels with open vowels in the same word of that language. For every word, either its vowels are all close and/or mid; or else all of its vowels are open and/or mid. For instance such a language might not allow i nor u to co-occur with a in any word; but e and o could co-occur with any vowel.

Or if its vowel-harmony is backness harmony, a might be a neutral vowel, being as it is a central vowel. i and e can’t co-occur with u and o in any word, but a can co-occur with any vowel.
No, that's completely backwards. Indeed, Aevas has already pointed out that in Finnish's fronting harmony, /e i/ are neutral, while /a/ (a 'middle value' vowel) is NOT neutral.


However, we need to be a bit more clear on the concept of 'neutrality', as it can cover three different things. There are actually three properties for each vowel in a harmony system: triggering (potentially causing other vowels to change), targethood (potentially being changed by the presence of trigger vowels), and blocking (limiting the scope of harmony within the word). "Neutral" can be ambiguous between "non-trigger" and "non-target" - which may be the same in many languages, but not all.

For example, high vowels are often triggers for height harmony, but they're also often 'neutral' in the sense that they're not targets.

The least common triggers for height harmony are low vowels.
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Re: Vowel Harmony and Diphthongs

Post by aliensdrinktea »

Thanks guys. I appreciate the detailed responses. [:)]

(Sorry for not quoting properly. Easier to format a ton of quotes this way.)
Counterintuitively, it's actually relatively common for /i/ to be treated as neutral
Huh, that's interesting! I'll have to dig deeper into how individual natlangs deal with vowel harmony and neutral vowels.
- I believe diphthongs are often exempt from harmony rules, so in that case, yes, these things would be allowed, yes. Likewise, long vowels are often exempt.

- however, they're not exempt in all languages! One issue might be whether your language treats [ai] as underlyingly /aj/ (a unitary diphthong), or as /ai/ (phonemically a sequence of two vowels in hiatus, even if phonologically it collapses to a diphthong in pronunciation). The former is probably less likely to trigger harmony, and much less likely to be altered by it.
Good to know. I would say Yuraalian (my conlang) has /aj/ underlyingly. /ai/ would imply two vowels occupying the syllable nucleus, right? In this case, /j/ occupies the coda, as evidenced by the fact diphthongs only appear in open syllables* (complex codas are forbidden).
(*Well, except [ei] and [ou], which can be underlyingly a vowel + semivowel or a long vowel.)
- it's also possible in some languages for vowel harmony to be 'blocked' by certain vowels - not only do they not change, but vowels before them (or after them, depending on which direction the harmony works) don't change either. Long vowels can block in some languages, and I wouldn't be surprised if diphthongs can do too.
I've heard of this but don't know much about it -- another thing to look into.
Other than that, though, I think the key question is: how 'active' is the harmony? Harmony looks like a synchronic system - a set of rules the current language follows - but it's probably best thought of as the result of a sound change. Like all sound changes, it's active at a particular time - and for a particular length of time.
And this is where my lack of a proto-language comes back to bite me. But there's no reason I can't work out sound changes backwards as I need them, right?
So, in your case you have two soundchanges, or perhaps more accurately two sound change rules: one that reduces diphthongs; and one that produces harmony. But what order do they operate in?

If you have harmony first, and then reduction, then you end up with a seemingly irregular vowel harmony system - certain vowels just don't trigger (or aren't affected by) harmony, for no obvious synchronic reason (or are affected, but in a different way) , or you may even have vowels that trigger it in some words and not (or differently) in others (depending on where the vowel comes from). This isn't 'ideal' vowel harmony, it's messy, but as I say, that doesn't mean it doesn't happen in real languages!
This sounds exactly like what I was wanting to do. Thank you!
If /aw/ derives from an earlier /au/, that existed when there was already harmony, then it's possible that it would already have been altered, and hence the /aw/ would never have arisen. However, if the /au/ already reduced to /aw/ before harmony arose, or if it's from, say, /al/ or the like, then there's no reason it couldn't exist
Again, I've got nothing yet as far as historical sound changes go, but I will keep this in mind when working that out. [:)]
But what they do about it is up to them. I think there are four plausible options for them:
Thanks for the suggestions!
d) be indecisive, and try to find a middle way. In this scenario, they maintain harmony as a general rule, but accept that certain words are exceptions. So again you'd have two different sorts of /o/ - one which was involved in harmony, and one which wasn't.
I take it this is also plausible (if not more likely) if the sound change is not a diachronic /aw/ > /o/ but a synchronic /aw/ -> [au] -> [o]? (The latter only triggering for unstressed syllables.)
There are four different kinds of vowel harmony a language can have. (Well, four that are listed in the Wikipedia article.)
No language would reasonably have any two of them in my opinion; and as far as I know no natlang does in fact have any two of them.
Well then, I've got something to think about. I just went with rounding/backness because it seemed meaningless to make a distinction between the two when I've got only front unrounded and back rounded vowels. Perhaps I could choose just one type of harmony and have it give rise to front rounded/back unrounded allophones, even if I don't alter the phonemic vowel inventory.
So what you read about harmony in one language may not necessarily transfer to some other language, unless you’re careful to re-interpret what is meant by “harmony” if that’s necessary, which at least half the time it will be.
That's true. Sometimes I need to remind myself that general rules don't always exist, especially cross-linguistically.
Umlaut happens when the vowels of adjacent syllables influence each other, whether anticipatorily (the first vowel starts to resemble the second) or perseveratively (the second vowel starts to resemble the first), in spite of the consonants between them.
Another interesting concept! I'll have to read up on this as well. (And thank you for the examples!)
There is a rarum in the Grammatical Rarity Cabinet of a natlang that has vowel harmony of the peripheral-vs-interior type!
Fascinating! Do you know which language this is?
Are you committed to only doing in your conlang what happens in at least one natlang?
No, as long as it's plausibly naturalistic. (I mean, I've got second-person clusivity, which is arguably unattested in any natlang.) Thank you for the suggestions!
If the feature of vowels getting harmonized has at least three values, then vowels with the middle value count as neutral in that language.
...
Or if its vowel-harmony is backness harmony, a might be a neutral vowel, being as it is a central vowel. i and e can’t co-occur with u and o in any word, but a can co-occur with any vowel.
This is what I was going for. I take it neutral vowels are less likely to exist in languages where harmony is based on roundedness?
Some diphthongs, called “falling diphthongs”, put most of the stress or energy or weight on the first part of the diphthong, and rather little on the second part.
Maybe for “falling” diphthongs only the first part has to harmonize?
Some diphthongs, called “rising” diphthongs, put most of the stress or energy or weight on the last part of the diphthong, and not much on the first part.
Maybe for “rising” diphthongs only the last part has to harmonize?
That's what my intuition tells me as well. Thank you for the explanation on falling vs. rising diphthongs, by the way! I'd always assumed those terms had something to do with vowel height. [>_<]
This is very misleading. In reality, it's very common to have multiple harmony systems at one. Indeed, rounding harmony AIUI typically does appear with another form of harmony as well. Turkish and Turkic languages have rounding and backing harmony, Mongolic languages have rounding and RTR harmony, and some West African languages have ATR harmony with either backing or rounding, it's not agreed which.

[which encourages pointing out: although people like to label something 'backness harmony' or 'rounding harmony' or the like, in reality each language has its own system contrasting two (or more) sets of vowels; it's not always immediately clear what the underlying motivation for the set-definition in a given language really is.]
Oookay, thanks for the clarification on that. Though I still think it may be more interesting to choose just rounding or backness in my case and let a set of allophones arise as a result.
However, we need to be a bit more clear on the concept of 'neutrality', as it can cover three different things. There are actually three properties for each vowel in a harmony system: triggering (potentially causing other vowels to change), targethood (potentially being changed by the presence of trigger vowels), and blocking (limiting the scope of harmony within the word). "Neutral" can be ambiguous between "non-trigger" and "non-target" - which may be the same in many languages, but not all.
And now it gets complicated again. I'd been treating it as "all vowels are either front unrounded or back rounded, besides /a/" without considering what was driving the change. You mention it's possible for vowels to be triggers but not targets, but is the reverse true as well?
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Re: Vowel Harmony and Diphthongs

Post by eldin raigmore »

Of the four types of vowel-harmony listed in the Wikipedia article, the two that are likeliest to go together, and also likeliest to be confused with each other when they aren’t going together, are backness harmony and roundedness harmony.
This is because in so many vowel-inventories all back vowels are rounded and all rounded vowels are back.

Obviously if the language has back unrounded vowels or rounded front or rounded central vowels, you can tell the difference between backness harmony and roundedness harmony.

But, if there are unrounded central vowels, you’re usually able to tell the difference even if all back vowels are rounded and all rounded vowels are back;
because the central vowels are neither back nor front, and therefore count as “neutral” vowels if the harmony is backness/frontness harmony (no word has both a back vowel and a front vowel);
but there aren’t any “neutral” vowels in roundedness harmony; every vowel is either rounded or unrounded, nothing’s in between.

Salmoneus can certainly claim, and may even be able to cite, exceptions; but the above is, in general, a good guide to reality.

.....

As a general rule no given instance of a vowel can be both a trigger and a target.
But ordinarily the first vowel in a word, or the primarily stressed vowel in a word, is the trigger; and all the later vowels, or all the unstressed or secondarily stressed vowels, are the targets.
So a given vowel sound may be a trigger vowel in a word where it’s first and stressed, and a target vowel in a word where it’s unfirst and unstressed, or something like that.

One thing; a blocking vowel is never a trigger and never a target. Harmonization doesn’t cross a blocking vowel; the vowels before the blocking vowel don’t have to harmonize with the vowels after the blocking vowel.

Neutral vowels also aren’t triggers or targets, but they are transparent to harmonization.
Target vowels after a neutral vowel may have to harmonize with trigger vowels before the neutral vowel; or, if the harmonization is anticipatory instead of perseverating, target vowels before a neutral vowel may have to harmonize with trigger vowels after the neutral vowel.

So the biggest difference between blocking vowels and neutral vowels is that blocking vowels are opaque to harmony but neutral vowels are transparent to harmony.

......


If a word doesn’t contain any blocking vowels (to divide it into two or more pieces for harmonizing purposes), it contains at most one trigger vowel.
This will ordinarily be the primarily stressed vowel if that’s not a neutral vowel, or the first stressed non-neutral vowel, or the last stressed non-neutral vowel, or the first non-neutral vowel, or the last non-neutral vowel.
All the other non-neutral vowels will be target vowels that have to harmonize with it (assuming no blocking vowels intervene).
If it’s the first non neutral vowel harmony will be perseverating; if it’s the last non neutral vowel harmony will be anticipating.
If it’s the first stressed non neutral vowel harmony will be mostly perseverating; if it’s the last stressed non neutral vowel harmony will be mostly anticipating.
If it’s the primarily stressed vowel “perseverating vs anticipating” won’t really matter.

....

It’s Pasiego. A dialect of Spanish, apparently.

https://typo.uni-konstanz.de/rara/nav/s ... c7ikq6jj7m

Number 100
Phenomenon vowel harmony in terms of vowel peripherality, rather than of backness (palatal harmony), roundness (labial harmony), or ATR (height harmony)
Where found Pasiego (northwestern Spanish dialect, Romance, IE)
Domain phonology
Subdomain segment classes: vowel harmony
Keywords peripherality
Type nonesuch
Universals violated none
Source Picard, Marc (2001). Vowel harmony, centralization, and peripherality: The case of Pasiego. Linguistics 39: 117-132.
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eldin raigmore
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Re: Vowel Harmony and Diphthongs

Post by eldin raigmore »

Thank you for the explanation on falling vs. rising diphthongs, by the way! I'd always assumed those terms had something to do with vowel height.
I think we can avoid confusion if we use “close” instead of “high” and “open” instead of “low”.
A diphthong that goes from open to close, or mid to close, or open to mid, might be called a “closing diphthong”.
A diphthong that goes from close to open, or mid to open, or close to mid, might be called an “opening diphthong”.

There perhaps should be some special adjective to call diphthongs that go close to mid or open to mid.

A diphthong that goes back to front or central to front or back to central might get called a “fronting diphthong”;
and one that goes front to back or central to back or front to central might be called a “backing diphthong”.

Maybe we should call a diphthong that goes front to central or back to central a “centering diphthong”.

.....

The most popular diphthongs are among the following:
Close to non-close
Non-close to close
Rounded to unrounded
Unrounded to rounded
Mid-central to peripheral
Peripheral to mid-central

....

Most language with a diphthongal phoneme or phonemic diphthong just have one.
Most languages with more than one have just two.
Most languages with more than two have just three. (? I think? That may not be a strongly significant statistic.)
Most languages with more than three seem to have lots.

....

I don’t think triphthongs can have a close second component unless either the first or last component is also close; otherwise the close one will be perceived as a semivowel rather than a vowel.
And I don’t think triphthongs can have a rounded second component unless either the first or last component is also rounded; again, because otherwise the rounded one will be perceived as a semivowel rather than a vowel.

.....

You’re (ie. aliensdrinktea) the one with a linguistics degree, so eventually you’ll be able to tell me; have I been wrong about any of what I’ve said on your thread? How much of it have I been wrong about, and how wrong have I been about it?

....

Obviously I think you ask interesting questions!
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Re: Vowel Harmony and Diphthongs

Post by Sequor »

Salmoneus wrote: 15 Oct 2020 21:49The least common triggers for height harmony are low vowels.
I think pre-Romanian provides a nice example of this. At some point, fairly late in development, mid /e/ (from both earlier close /e/ and /ɛ/, so often /je/ from the latter) assimilated to a following /a/ by breaking into [e̯a], and mid /o/ (from a merger of earlier /o/ and /ɔ/) did the same before /e a/ becoming [o̯a].

crēscat > creáscă (but crēscere > créște/créștere, crēscō > cresc)
petra > *[pjétɾa] > *[pjeátɾa] > piátră (but petrae > piétre)
flōrem > floáre (but flōrēs > *[flóɾi] > flori)
coquit > *[kótʃe] > coáce (but coquō > coc)
rōdat > roádă (but rōdō > rod)
*ex-volat > zboáră (but exvolō > zbor)

Interestingly this was also accompanied by an e...e > ea...e dissimilation, which has now often been undone with a still later assimilation back to e...e.

vidēre > *[vede̯áɾe] > vedeá ~ vedére
mēnsae > older meáse > mése (while mēnsam > meásă...)
hīc sunt linguificēs. hēr bēoþ tungemakeras.
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